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Cuadrilla Halts Well in Southern England on Shale Protests

Cuadrilla Resources Ltd., a U.K. oil and gas explorer, suspended drilling at Balcombe in southern England in the face of an anti-shale protest camp.

“After taking advice from Sussex Police, Cuadrilla is temporarily scaling back drilling operations ahead of the event,” the Lichfield, England-based company said today in an e-mailed statement. “We plan to resume full operations as soon as it is safe to do so.”

Campaign group No Dash for Gas have threatened direct action during a protest campaign planned from today until Aug. 21, Cuadrilla said.

Local residents and environmental campaigners have opposed drilling plans by Cuadrilla, citing concerns that the operation will contaminate water, cause noise and increase traffic. In July, protesters blocked the site, forcing Cuadrilla to delay the start of exploratory work.

The company, backed by Riverstone Holdings LLC and AJ Lucas Group Ltd., plans a conventional oil well at Balcombe, it said. No hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, will take place at this stage, it has said. Any plans for such a process, which blasts sand, water and chemicals at high pressure into underground rock to release fuel, will be subject to a rigorous regulatory permitting process, it said.

“It is right that people are free to protest in a peaceful fashion,” the U.K. Onshore Operators Group said. “We cannot, however, allow single issue pressure groups to subvert the rule of law and prevent Cuadrilla’s workers from carrying out their lawful operations.”

The Church of England said today there is a danger that people may be “ignoring the wider considerations” of fracking such as fuel poverty. An oil well at Furzey Island in Poole on the south coast has been operating without endangering the environment, it said in a statement on its website.

The statement followed a report in The Times that the church was seeking to assert a claim over mineral rights over 500,000 acres of land under ancient laws.

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